American boxing fans are about to become familiar with one the sport’s most promising young talents.
Unbeaten WBO flyweight titlist Junto Nakatani is due to head to the United States for his first title defense, coming versus former WBO junior flyweight title claimant Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta. BoxingScene.com has learned that their oft-postponed mandatory title fight is now being targeted for September 10 in Tucson, Arizona.
Once plans are finalized, the bout will land on the undercard of a planned ESPN show to be headlined by local favorite and newly crowned WBC junior lightweight titlist Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23KOs).
Yahoo! Japan combat sports writer Daisuke Sugiura was the first to reveal the news.
Representatives from camps for both fighters as well as Top Rank declined comment as the targeted fight date has not yet been announced or finalized.
Nakatani (21-0, 16KOs) will make the first defense of the WBO crown he won in an eighth-round knockout of Philippines’ Giemel Magramo in their vacant title fight last November in Tokyo, Japan. The fight came after a lengthy delay due to the pandemic, with the second wave of the coronavirus further slowing any progress made in restoring the Japanese boxing scene.
With it came several delays in the WBO-ordered mandatory title fight. Nakatani—a 23-year-old southpaw from Sagamihara, Japan—was originally due to face Puerto Rico’s Acosta (22-2, 21KOs) on May 29 in Osaka. Increased COVID restrictions shut down those plans along with all scheduled bouts in Japan through the month of May.
An inability to settle on a rescheduled date threatened to put the fight at the mercy of a WBO purse bid hearing which was scheduled for June 1. The two sides were able to come to terms to the satisfaction of all parties involved, including the apparent involvement of Top Rank through means of lending undercard space to house the fight.
Acosta previously served as a WBO titlist, winning the belt on his second attempt. The lean knockout artist from San Juan came up short in a May 2017 vacant title fight versus then-unbeaten Kosei Tanaka, claiming the belt in his very next fight with a tenth-round knockout of Juan ‘Pinky’ Alejo on December 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The bout came in support of the final fight in the legendary career of Miguel Cotto, whose Promociones Miguel Cotto company represents Acosta in conjunction with Golden Boy Promotions.
The junior flyweight title reign lasted 18 months, before Acosta suffered a controversial twelfth-round stoppage to Elwin Soto in June 2019. Acosta was ahead on the scorecards at the time of the questionable stoppage, only to never get his shot at revenge as the fight was his last at junior flyweight. Acosta has since won his last two starts, most recently in an eight-round decision win over Gilberto Mendoza this past March in Salinas, Puerto Rico—just the second time in his career where he was extended the distance and the first time in a win.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox